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Sticky Fingers: Thieves Craving Sugary Loot

Pancake lovers panic as thefts of maple syrup and maple sap rise. (Image credit: <a href="">intoit</a> / <a href=""></a>)

In the annals of crime, this may go down as one sweet mystery.

Thieves in Germany have absconded with about 5.5 tons (5 metric tons) of Nutella, the spreadable chocolate-hazelnut treat beloved by children (and more than a few adults) all over the world, the Associated Press reports.

The jars of Nutella were stolen from a parked trailer near the town of Niederaula, Agence France-Presse reports, and have a retail value of more than $20,800.

The theft joins a number of recent crimes involving sugary substances. Property owners in Maine have reported a startling increase in the theft of maple sap, the sweet liquid that's used to make maple syrup, the Montreal Gazette reports.

It takes roughly 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup, so even though syrup is valued at about $50 per gallon, it would take a lot of work to produce a little maple syrup, aka "liquid gold."

"I don't think it makes a lot of sense, you need a certain amount of trees to make this worth it, and the equipment is expensive," John Bott, director of communications for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forests, told the Gazette.

Not only are thieves skulking around private property to steal the sap, they're also destroying old sugar maple trees by boring three or four holes into them as large as 7/8-inch wide, leaving the tree susceptible to disease. (Most tree tappers use just one or two 5/16-inch bores to tap a tree.)

"People may think this is a victimless crime, but it's not," Bott said. "Drilling into the first board, the lower part of the tree, damages potential lumber and diminishes the value of that tree."

Costly though it may be, the tapping of maple trees on private property pales in comparison to last year's heist of $18 million worth of refined maple syrup from a Quebec warehouse, according to the New York Times.

The theft dealt a crushing blow to Canada's strategic maple syrup reserve. (Yes, Canada has a strategic reserve of maple syrup, since the Canadian product dominates the global market.)

"It’s like OPEC," Simon Trépanier, acting general manager of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, told the Times. "We're not producing all the maple syrup in the world. But by producing 70 to 78 percent, we have the ability to adjust the quantity that is in the marketplace."

Thieves are getting more brazen in acting upon their sugar cravings: In the small town of Calais, Maine, sap bandits put taps into the maple trees in the town's cemetery, igniting outrage among the local citizenry.

"That was the first year they'd been put in trees at the cemetery, and that's what ruffled people's feathers," Carmen Small of neighboring Robbinston told the Associated Press. "Doing it at a cemetery is sacrilegious and disrespectful. It freaked my husband out because his family's buried right under one of the trees."

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Marc Lallanilla
Marc Lallanilla
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at and a producer with His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.